On St. Patricks day… The view of the Soccer Fan Abroad:
There is no greater incongruence in the way that British football supporters are seen then in the way that they are viewed the United States. Consider this for a moment:
Over here the archetypal English man is seen as your well dressed but roguish Hugh Grant type, normally from London (the only target in England for most American travelers) and completely respectable we’re swarve but not always clean cut; mannered, perhaps cheeky but always polite …the sort of well educated person your girlfriends mother would like her to meet. In a sense, your average American just “loves the accent” (assuming of course they can first and foremost identify you as being English and not Australian, Canadian or southern Irish; as frequently happens); are frequently surprised when you reveal that England actually has several of its own regional dialects!
… Yet compare this to the soccer hooligan. The violent ruffian who’s disdain and sneer of cold command strikes terror into your poor defenseless European who is apparently living fearfully in our shadow. We’re the ones who riot every game, don’t take kids or women to the matches (presumably because they’ll get thrown at the players and opposition supporters) and who hate everyone foreign. We’re allowed to have shaven heads, so long as we have a brick in our hand and didn’t go to school, and we’re single handedly to blame for football bad reputation.
This discrepancy I blame for 24 hour shop o’vision shows (especially cook shows) and telemarketers (using the English accent because market annalists tell them that more people trust it.
This is all especially sad because we all know that really there is no either-or. For us because we know a Britain can be both. We’re a mixed nation with our own appeals and tribulations that we have to live with- many issues of which, such as educational standards and cultural stepping stones you won’t ever have to deal with until you move out of the country to work and live.
Really the issue here is not who we really are, but the way that we are really seen, particularly by other nations like America. A lot of which we have to take credit and accountability for and a lot of which we don’t (in my mind over sensationalized media reporting of football in England is one such area). We know for instance that Sunderland AFC has its bad side and its good side, just like all the other clubs, but remember that this average American of which we speak, won’t. On top of it all this is a problem, particularly on a day like St. Patricks day, when suddenly the two-tone Englishman develops yet another, more dangerous color, the red/white of St george (lets face it we're not all english).
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing they say. And nine to eleven million Americans (the population of New York City, including Hispanic peoples) who suddenly find out that they are Irish is a good example of this. Don’t get me wrong, I mean you’re going to get trouble on St pats day in NYC, almost all of it from too much of the black stuff, but I’ve never had any of it physically directed at me for being British save from a few lewd comments at some parties that I’ve been to. But I’ve had it all on this day, at least as far as anything else is concerned; people seem surprised that I’m English actually daring to be walking and breathing in NYC on the green day, and the comment “I hate the English because my (insert random family member here) is Irish.” Has rung out all too frequently in the avenues and alleyways of NYC. More memorably we’re the nation that had “Oliver Cromwell throw 8 million Irish people off a cliff in the 1920’s” (actual quote, I’ve quoted it before in this section). So you can see how zany the world in America can get at this time of year.
Me, I like being British, but more to the point, being a Sunderland supporter. Not because who we are but because of who we are not, essentially because of the differences between us. We’re the mining, glass working, ship building families who went to university, we’re the Dr’s bankers and lawyers who never went to school. On a single day meeting in new York a group of Sunderland supporters can single handedly smash the myths perpetuated about us in one go, whoever we are or whatever country or region we belong to, and that’s why I love being in the red and white nation, and also why I love being British. Being a Sunderland supporter we can be the barman from Shiny Row who’s quite respectable, the financial analyst or researcher from new jersey who skips work for a pint to see the lads play, we can be the banker or the salesman, the Scottish computer technician or the Marine Biologist. It doesn’t matter. We’re a nation, as the song says, without a frontier.
I guess they don't know any better, its not their fault. So no matter how tough it can get having stereotypes thrown at you wherever you are or whatever day you are on, be you from Britain, England, the north east, Sunderland or any corner of this globe, I know that deep down, they’re only saying that because they don’t know what it truly means to be who we are, The red and white you see, makes it bearable; mainly because ever so often, you come across an American Sunderland fan-
-And then you realize, that, after all, that the world isn’t just black and white.